(#44 in a series of people who changed the course of my life)
Our hearts were both aching, heavy with grief. Different perspectives and life experiences had informed our grief that week; yet it brought us together. Wanting to find a way to offer solace, dialogue, and healing, Bishop Alex Byrd of Living Faith Covenant Church and I worked together to present two vigils in the wake of the Emanuel AME church murders.
At the first, we listened to those of us gathered together.
At the second, we listened to guest speakers and ministers, with Bishop Byrd providing the final word.
He would remind us of the importance of living out our purpose, as those slain had been. Of being unafraid of informing the world of a better way, that those of us called to the work of social activism are prophets.
Yes. Prophets. And he would remind prophets that
“…when you are living into your purpose, you make yourself a target for the enemy.”
That prophets are not always received well—in their hometown or abroad. He cited examples of prophets like Dr. King who have gone before us and the sometimes gruesome consequences of speaking truth to power—you know, like a prophet does.
He would tell us how badly our churches, our communities, our country need people of purpose—prophets—so desperately. People like those were gathered in that room like Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood, Rev. Dr. Irie Session, Pastor Will Horn, activist C.D. Kirven, and so many others. People who will stand against the sin of racism, stand with people in the margins, stand up for those who cannot stand themselves.
Tasks not always easy to do and certainly not without its share of haters.
Then today (July 19), during his sermon at City of Refuge UCC, as a part of the sending lesson to The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries Convocation attendees, Bishop Byrd expanded his call for prophets:
“We are not waiting for another Martin Luther King, Jr….or Cesar Chavez. We are waiting for you….”
For people who will pour everything about themselves into the task so that the very best can be made manifest in the world.
I was convicted, again.
This man of God, Alex Byrd, my friend, is a prophet. And if I am to believe him, then I am living into becoming one too.
How grateful I am for his example, for a heart you can almost feel ache when grief strikes and resound with praise over blessing, for his gift of prophetically speaking the truth at a time when we need to hear it most.